The 7-in. tablet market has been heating up lately and isn’t showing signs of slowing in 2012. With the recent launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire (not yet in Canada) and Toshiba’s Thrive, I can see the 7-in. form factor growing in popularity, especially as more vendors release smaller devices.
If you don’t want to wait for more releases and are planning a post-Christmas 7-in. tablet search, you should consider the Acer Iconia Tab A100. Keep in mind, though, that it’s definitely built more for entertainment, so if you’re planning to bring your own device to work for productivity purposes in 2012, this might not be the best choice.
Released in August, the tablet was a follow-up to the company’s 10.1-in. Iconia Tab A500. It was the first 7-in. tablet to run Android 3.2 (Honeycomb). Both sized tablets are reported to be getting upgrades to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in January.
A co-worker picked up the A500 for himself and has had no regrets, claiming 7-in. models are just too small. After spending just a small amount of time with the A100, I have to disagree.
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It took me a while to understand the appeal of the 7-in. tablet as more than an awkward, large smart phone. But for everyday Web surfing, reading e-books and articles or for general entertainment, I can now understand having a smaller tablet on hand, especially for frequent commuters or travellers (even if it doesn’t quite fit in a pocket).
Aesthetically, the A100 is very nice to look at and hold, and is lightweight. Among its specs are a micro-HDMI port, a microSD memory card reader and a micro USB port, along with both rear and front-facing cameras. The still camera and camcorder features worked well, but I can’t see them being that useful. Rear-facing cameras on tablets have always been a bit perplexing to me, but the capability in the A100 is there if you want it.
The touch capability worked well for me and performance was fast. For reading an e-book, the touch worked beautifully and quickly, as it did for browsing the Web and typing. Being only a 7-in tablet also meant typing was difficult though, so for writing more than the occasional e-mail or doing the occasional Web search, it’s not the best.
Both video streaming and sound on the A100 were very good and the external volume control worked well. The dual speakers were surprisingly effective.
The A100 isn’t marketed as a “professional” device, but as more of us use our devices for work and play, it makes sense to me to invest in products you can use for both-and the A100 is definitely more suited to the latter.
I didn’t do a formal test, but I also found the battery to drain very quickly and, coupled with its small size, that convinced me I wouldn’t be able to rely on it much for productivity.
All of that would be okay, since the A100 isn’t meant to be a work tablet, but its retail price ruined the charm for me a bit. For a 16GB device, it sells for about $400. It does have an 8GB model that is now selling at retail stores for about $300, about $50 less than its original price, which is easier to take.
But, for not that much more, you could get a 10-in. tablet that would probably be much better suited to work tasks, including the A500 model. Even Acer’s own 10.1-in. Iconia Tab A200 for the new year will be a more budget-friendly tablet, the company says.
Overall, if you’re looking for tablet for everyday entertainment like games and reading e-books, that’s specifically smaller than a 10.1-in model, then the A100 is a good choice and fun to use. But if you need a tablet that will allow for more productivity, it’s not the best choice.